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The happiest crossing guard in Harvey County

The perfect fit in a historic house

New book honors Harvey County veterans

From the Publisher VOLUME 2 • NUMBER 3


his issue of Harvey County NOW has a special place in my heart as the cover story is about Newton Young Professionals and its budding program in our county. Many of you may not be aware of my absolute passion for Young Professionals (YP) and what a well run YP can do for an area. My wife and I are from Reno County, where there is a well-established and flourishing YP group, and we have been members of the group for quite some time. We plan on keeping our membership there, along with a membership in NYP, despite moving to Newton in the near future. The reason is simple: the friendships and relationships we have built in Reno County are too great to let die. The reason we have many of those relationships is because of YP. My membership in Newton is still young, but I am already meeting like-minded young professionals and people who care about Newton. I hope to call them friends in the near future. The beauty of Young Professionals is that it gives people 40 years and younger (it’s more of a mindset, in my opinion) an outlet to network, volunteer and be active in their community. Without a YP group, it might be hard for a young person working in Newton to find friends or an outlet to get involved as it can be scary to venture out alone. I will stop waxing poetic about YP soon, but if you are reading this, or our cover story about NYP, and are interested in joining or just want more information, check out the Newton Chamber of Commerce website at, and click on the Newton Young Professionals tab. I really encourage anyone to join this worthwhile group and get involved. It’s folks like those in YP who will be building Newton’s future going forward.

CO-EDITORS Don Ratzlaff Wendy Nugent

FEATURES, PHOTOGRAPHY Wendy Nugent Kelley DeGraffenreid Blake Spurney Don Ratzlaff

SALES Bruce Behymer Wendy Nugent

CREATIVE Shelley Plett

PUBLISHED BY Kansas Publishing Ventures LLC Joey Young, Publisher 116 S. Main, Hillsboro, KS 67063 620-947-5702




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Schools Happiest crossing guard in Harvey County

Contact: Bruce Behymer 316-617-1095 Wendy Nugent 316-284-0408 does not knowingly publish or accept advertisements that are misleading or fraudulent. Publisher reserves the right to cancel or reject any advertisements. Kansas Publishing Ventures LLC does not assume any financial responsibility for typos in ads. If at fault, however, Kansas Publishing will reprint any portion of the advertisement where there is an error. Location of ads, size of type and style are left to the discretion of the publisher. Opinions in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. ©2014 Kansas Publishing Ventures LLC.

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14 President

Drenched in Bethel College

27 Serving

20 Norma Preheim

Gives direction to youth

Kansas Publishing releases Harvey County veterans book

ON THE COVER: Clockwise from left, Newton Young Professionals members Erin McDaniel, past president; Eric Litwiller, vice president; and Owen Kindall, president. (See story page 4.) Cover photo: Wendy Nugent

Winter 2014

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Young and

professional in Newton Article and photos • Wendy Nugent


d O’Malley posed this question to those attending the Newton Young Professionals Lunch-N-Learn gathering Sept. 18: “When you think about the future of Newton, what concerns you the most?” O’Malley, who was the speaker that day at Norm’s Coffee Bar in Newton, gave the NYP members 90 seconds to discuss the matter with someone at their table. O’Malley is the president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita. After the allotted time was up, some concerns sprouted from the audience. Then O’Malley posed another question: What type of leadership will it take to tackle those specific challenges? He gave members another 90 seconds to talk about the matter. Types of leadership qualities discussed included self-awareness and openness (listening to others’ ideas). O’Malley asked yet another question: What is the role in developing or supporting this kind of leadership? Answers included being courageous and having perseverance. Audience member Christy Pickerill of rural Hesston, who’s been a member of the group for more than four years, asked O’Malley what is the best way to get others involved in the community who aren’t, and stated there are people doing more who are extremely busy. O’Malley responded by saying it’s important for people to not get really busy but to get purposeful. About 50 people attended the Lunch-N-Learn session; NYP meets at noon the second Thursday of the month, usually at

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Norm’s. The next Lunch-N-Learn will be at noon Dec. 11 at Norm’s, and Robert Palmer will talk about starting a small business. Young professionals attending the meeting were dressed in a variety of clothing — from caps, shorts and T-shirts to polo shirts and slacks to dress shirts with ties. There was at least one woman wearing a dress. NYP leaders stressed anyone from the ages of 21 to about 40 can join, and people don’t have to just work in offices. “It’s not just for white collar people,” NYP Vice President Eric Litwiller said. “It’s an age issue, not a what do you do for a living issue.” Litwiller works for Everence in Hesston. Every Young Professionals organization in the country

deals with that misconception. Anyone in that age category who works, spends time in or lives in the Newton area can join. “We really feel like we’re more of a Harvey County kind of organization,” said Past President Erin McDaniel, public

information officer for the city of Newton. Members seem to enjoy the organization, as there was much chatter during the Lunch-N-Learn event while everyone ate. “I love the people and the food and

learning about all kinds of things without having to plan any of it,” Pickerill said. Pickerill stated she’s quite busy with her Mary Kay and math-tutoring businesses, as well as managing Snip N’ Clip haircut shop and her volunteer jobs. “Mostly, I like to see

........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Opposite page: Newton Young Professionals audience members listen to Ed O'Malley (right), president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, talk during a NYP Sept. 18 meeting. Above: Chancy Gerbitz (second from left) with the Central Kansas Community Foundation, and Christy Pickerill (left), who runs two businesses, during the Sept. 18 Newton Young Professionals meeting at Norm's Coffee Bar in Newton.

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people my age passionate about what’s going on around here.” Litwiller also believes in the organization, which is a branch of the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think it provides a lot of opportunities for younger people and/or newer people to town with (chances) to get involved and get to know the people in the community,” he said, as it’s a great place to network. The idea for the group, which formed in 2008, was the brainchild of Virgil Penner, who led the Newton Chamber at the time, McDaniel said. Years ago, the Chamber had the Jaycees organization, which was for young professionals, and that group died out. Since then, there hasn’t been a specific group for young professionals to get involved, and Penner wanted to create a group to introduce people in their 20s and 30s to the Chamber and give them development opportunities to take over leadership roles in the community, McDaniel said. At the time, Penner talked to some young professionals he knew regarding an organizational meeting, and about 15-20 attended. They started having Lunch-N-Learns, as well as social events. People attended, and the group steadily has grown. “The initial meetings drew a large crowd, which showed there was enthusiasm in the community for the YP concept,” McDaniel said. Now, in addition to meeting once a month for the Lunch-N-Learns, NYP have quarterly mingles, which are after-hours events at sponsoring businesses. There, members eat, mingle and learn about the sponsoring business. A recent one was on Oct. 28 at the Kansas Sports Museum. If anyone is interested in joining, they’re welcome to attend one Lunch-N-Learn as a guest, and they’ll get lunch for free. After that, they’re asked to pay the $50 a year dues, and they still don’t have to pay for lunch. The group also has an annual meeting every August. At the last annual meeting, as stated on the NYP Facebook page, they discussed events for 2014-15, elected new council members, voted on the new NYP logo and heard a YMCA fundraising update. They’ve also toured some large manufacturers and facilities in the area, including Prairie View, the jail and AGCO. This

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..................................................................................................................................................................... Christy Pickerill (right) and Chancy Gerbitz (left) discuss a matter posed by the speaker at the Newton Young Professionals Sept. 18 meeting.

is a way to get NYP members to see what these businesses/facilities do and how they contribute to the community, McDaniel said. NYP also takes part in volunteer/charitable causes, such as cleaning up along Sand Creek, collecting donations for charitable organizations, like the local safe house, and buying presents during the holidays for an Angel Tree at Wal-Mart. Members pick needed items listed on the tree and go shopping as a group. This year, they’re doing that at 4 p.m. Dec. 2. “So it’s a way to give back as a group,” McDaniel said.

And they’re looking for new members. “We’re still in major growth at this point,” President Owen Kindall said. Kindall is a loan officer at First Bank. They’re looking to market the group, as well as getting new memberships, Kindall said. The council is looking at their infrastructure, like getting a website and having a pictorial member directory. For more information about NYP, visit their Facebook page at or their page on the Chamber’s website at or email

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The ‘happiest crossing guard in Harvey County’


n a crisp fall morning, Wes Schmidt stands on a street corner along Broadway Street in Newton. He is manning his post as he does every day of the school year. Standing on the corner dressed in a heavy red and black wool jacket and a florescent green reflective vest holding a “stop” sign with a short handle, he waits patiently for the next child to arrive. As he waits Schmidt waves at passing cars along this busy stretch of roadway. Nearly every driver and dozens of passengers enthusiastically wave back with broad smiles on their faces. Wes Schmidt has been called “the happiest crossing guard in Harvey County.” The students at Sunset Elementary School clearly adore him. One youngster on a bike approaches the intersection and with a grin exclaims, “Hi Wes – how are you doing today?” Schmidt first took up the crossing guard job 13 years ago. He was assigned to Sunset by the Newton Police Department. He has been working the Sunset crosswalk so long he now helps the children of children he first worked with more than a decade ago. He is

now 78 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. Close to the end of Schmidt’s morning shift, a red Jeep pulls up to the side of the road, and the driver motions him over. Schmidt does not recognize the vehicle, and tentatively walks over to the passenger side window where the driver hands him a fresh cup of hot chocolate from the McDonalds down the street. Schmidt is thrilled. It is a cold morning, and the warm drink “really hit the spot.” Dozens of drivers wave and smile in the half hour Schmidt worked that morning. He proudly shares he has had many people tell him that he is a bright spot in their day. “People tell me that they get up in a bad mood – but they see me smiling and waving and forget about their bad mood,” he said. In contrast to his happy nature, the jovial man is all business when it comes to helping the students cross the street. He observes the traffic and carefully leads the student across the clearly marked cross walk, waiting with his stop sign in the middle of Broadway until every student has stepped up on the opposite sidewalk.

Article and photos Kelley DeGraffenreid Broadway is a busy street in the mornings, and despite the flashing lights and school zone, cars sometimes “go flying through here,” says Schmidt. He has a good feel for the traffic. “I don’t want to get run over,” he says with a chuckle. He recalls a close call he had a few years back when a driver blinded by the morning sunrise did not see him and did not slow down. The driver returned a while later and apologized. Wayward drivers are not the only stress of his job. “In the winter when the snow is blowing – that’s when it’s a challenge,” says Schmidt. But he knows the kids and parents count on him, so he will be there rain, snow or shine. “I’m never late,” he emphasizes with a serious look on his face. Schmidt works to get to know all the children and strives “to treat them all the same.” There are always those children who struggle with behavioral issues, and he makes an effort to give those kids the right advice. You might think two shifts every day at the crosswalk would be plenty of activity for a 78year-old.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Wes Schmidt started volunteering as a crossing guard 13 years ago and now is helping children of children he helped cross the street years ago.

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Cross walk duty is just a small part of his day. After morning crossing guard duty, Schmidt heads to Newton Medical Center where he works as a courier and During the lunch hour, he heads to Slate Creek Elementary School where he helps his oldest grandson who works in the lunchroom at the school. Then it is home for lunch and back to Sunset Elementary for his afternoon crossing guard shift and finally back to the hospital for the evening mail route. “I am not a couch potato. I enjoy every moment of it. That’s what keeps me going,” Schmidt said. Schmidt cannot go anywhere in Newton without running into someone who recognizes him. His says his youngest grandson often declares, “Grandpa, you know everybody – and I tell him --- no everybody knows me.” Schmidt laughs as he recalls a trip to Burger King with this grandson. “He was sure there would not be anyone there that knew me.” But he was wrong. A group of teachers had just left a meeting, and all stopped by to greet their favorite crossing guard.

.......................................................................................................... Wes Schmidt, right, helps a student cross the street this fall near Sunset Elementary School.


Schmidt and his wife of 58 years Betty have five children, five grandchildren and six stepgrandchildren. He was born and raised near Medford, Oklahoma. “I was a country boy,” he exclaims. His family and the surrounding community spoke Low German, and when he first went to school, “didn’t talk a word of English.” He attended a one-room county school through eighth grade and then attended secondary school at Oklahoma Bible Academy. He likened his high school to Berean Academy. It was there he met his wife. They would move from Oklahoma to Illinois and then settle in Kansas. Schmidt worked for Hesston Corp. for 33 years before “retiring.” Raised Mennonite, Schmidt is thankful for his church and the life God has provided him. “I praise the Lord that he has led me,” says Schmidt. He is abundantly thankful for his health and the ability to work. He plans to work as long as he is able and the children of Sunset Elementary School will be better for it.

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Article and photos • Wendy Nugent 10 |

Winter 2014


t’s been a rock for many a year at the corner of Main and 27th streets in North Newton. No matter what goes on in or near it, it’s been standing for more than 100 years. The two-story home has seen its share of challenges and natural disasters, as it’s survived at least one flood and a fire. It’s also been the backdrop to the joys and sorrows of the influx of residents who have laughed, dined, celebrated holidays and raised their children there. Current residents Tim and Mary Ellen Hodge enjoy their residence and feel quite at home there. One reason Tim feels at home tis

because it reminds him of the house in which he grew up in downtown Topeka. He also likes it because he can get his 6-foot, 4-inch frame through the doorways. He doesn’t hit his head. “It’s a big house with big rooms,” Mary Ellen said. “ … It just kinda fits us.” The home has 10- to 12-foot tall ceilings with about 2,500 square feet of space, just counting the first and second floors. The main floor has a kitchen with the home’s original china cabinet; a large dining room graced with an artistic family tree on the north wall and pocket doors that block off the entrance to the living room (which used to be the

parlor); a bedroom; bathroom; and the formal entry with a formal staircase. There’s also a less formal staircase that leads from the kitchen to the second floor. That’s the stairs the family usually uses, Mary Ellen said. The second floor has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room. The home, which is referred to as the Wirkler-Krehbiel House, also is blessed with original ceiling fixtures throughout, as well as original oak woodwork and pine floors. There’s also a wheat pattern on the molding. The Hodges, who have three children, Jonah, 14; Simon, 10; and Adah, 8, moved into the historic North Newton home in 2008.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Left: Mary Ellen Hodge (right) reads to 8-year-old daughter Adah in the formal entrance to their home in North Newton. The residence was built in 1898. Above: Mary Ellen Hodge holds a photo of their home that was taken in 1900 from about the same angle.

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A few years later, they had a surprise. “We got flooded last summer with that nasty flood,” Mary Ellen said. “… We had at least five feet of water in the basement.” Water was up to Mary Ellen’s knees when she went outside by what they call their “moon sidewalk.” Because of the flooding in the basement, the Hodges want to put a new foundation under the home. “It was scary,” Mary Ellen said about the flood. “So, we’re kind of on a mission to fix that problem.” That project probably will start in about a year. In the basement, they want to have an apartment with a living room, two bedrooms, kitchenette and a bathroom. This might take several years, Mary Ellen said, adding that to have an apartment there would be in the tradition of when the home was first built. It could be a place for family to stay or people who need a place to stay for a short time, like parents visiting students at Bethel College.

“I think it would be fun to meet new people,” Mary Ellen said. “Why not, that’s what I say.” That project also will include new plumbing. Although they are making some changes, the Hodges are keeping many of the older aspects of the home. For example, they were lucky enough to find pocket doors that were original to the house in the theater department at Bethel College. “Tim gave them a donation for the doors,’ Mary Ellen said. “… If it’s not here, it might be at Bethel.” The house originally was constructed as a boarding house in 1898, as well as the Wirkler family home. Mary Ellen said she thinks the Wirklers had the intention of boarding Bethel students there. Now, the home has been put on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of Sadonia Corns, a graduate student at Wichita State University; and Jay

Price, history professor at WSU. Also preparing the detailed nomination of the home was Billi Wilson with the city of Newton. The home was approved to be listed on the State Historical Register at the Nov. 8 Kansas Historical Society meeting in Topeka. Christian Wirkler built the home, which is at 2727 N. Main in North Newton, as a boarding house for Bethel College students, and he was the owner/operator, according to the National Register of Historic Places Nomination form. Before that at Halstead Seminary, boarding students had become an issue. The solution included having private citizens take over those duties. Wirkler and his family were the most noted of the private citizens to become seminary student boarders. “When the (Halstead) school closed and was reconstituted at Bethel College, Wirkler and his family (wife Elizabeth, and children Mary, Elizabeth and John) moved near the new college and once again supported a

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. The Hodge family (from left), Jonah, Tim, Adah, Mary Ellen and Simon, sit in their dining room near the fireplace and a family tree that was added to the wall in the back. 12 |

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Mennonite college by serving as private boarders,” the nomination stated. After Mary’s parents moved to California in 1917, she, her husband, C.E. Krehbiel, moved in, residing there until their deaths. The flood of 2013 wasn’t the only natural disaster the home has seen. “In daughter Florence’s account of living in the home, it was noted that on Jan. 20, 1924, the house caught fire,” according to the nomination. “The roof and attic were burned including mementos their father C.E. had brought from Russia while distributing food during the famine.” Years later in 1958, the home was given to Bethel College by the Krehbiels’ children “where it remained a boarding house for students, professors and visitors to the campus.’ The home was sold to Ted and Alisha Krebhiel in 1992 and has served as a private residence since then. The Hodges’ home is designed in the Queen Anne style, which was popular from 1880 to 1910 in America, according to the nomination form. “The building’s Queen Anne features include the irregular form and massing, its asymmetry and its decorative elements, such as fishscale siding and turned spindles on the porch supports and balustrade,” the nomination form stated. When the Hodges first moved in, the interior walls were painted white. That has changed, as the

rooms are painted a variety of colors. Mary Ellen said she tried really hard to pick colors that were in the Victorian color scheme, saying Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams carry historical colors. “If you get the right paint color for the era of the house, I think it’s just going to look better,” Mary Ellen said. Mary Ellen really like the teal color the front room is painted. “I love it,” she said. “I love that color.’ The home features a mixture of modern and antique furnishings. For instance, the front room has modern seating with a TV in the room, while the dining room has an old fireplace and a Leopold desk, which once belonged to retired district judge Ted Ice and lawyer Harold Schorn. “It’s kind of been passed down through the lawyers in town,” Mary Ellen said. Other antiques include Mary Ellen’s grandma’s antique chickens (her grandma passed away at 100), barrister bookcases and the kitchen table. However, the children’s rooms have newer furniture as Tim and friend Phil Graber made new furniture, such as loft beds in the boys’ room. The dining room and kitchen are handy rooms, as the family can sit and talk and do homework too in the rooms. “I think the kitchen and that room (dining room) are the most used rooms in the house,” Mary Ellen said.

...................................................................................................................... Top: The Hodges’ kitchen. Middle: The Hodges’ living room is painted with a Victorian-era color on the walls and also sports modern furniture and an original light fixture. Bottom: The Hodges’ dining room features a Leopold desk.

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erry White’s life goal wasn’t to become a college president, but that vocation found him, and it goes along with his philosophy of life.

Article and photos • Wendy Nugent

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In September, the Bethel College president told freshmen who were dining in his and his wife, Dalene’s, home for dinner the secret to happiness in life is understanding and pursuing your purpose. “In my opinion, you don’t always discover your purpose,” White said. “More often than not, your purpose discovers you.” Time spent in pursuing happiness is an empty endeavor, he added. “Real purpose and happiness almost always include service to others and service to a cause greater than yourself,” he said. White’s goal had included being of service to others — his desire was to be a director of choral activities at a small church-based liberal arts college. He has master’s and doctorate degrees in choral conducting. “College president was never one of the goals I set for myself,” White said. His transition to becoming a college president happened through a series of events. When White worked at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., he had reached his life goal — he was director of choral activities there and then was promoted to director of that department. After teaching for six years, the president at Monmouth asked White to take the vice president of advancement position, and that same president also suggested to White he should consider becoming a college president, White said. White spent 10 years at Monmouth as a teacher and administrator, then two years at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wis., where he directed choir and was a vice president. He then accepted the president position at Bethel College. For his undergraduate work, White attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, which is a small liberal arts college with 2,500 students. Of those, 900 sang in the choir; that college, at times, has had the largest number of students participate in choir than any college or university in America. Luther College has a gigantic music program, White said, and he majored in music education. “It was an outstanding choir program,” said White, who was one of the choir members. White has had an almost life-long interest in the theater. While he was at Luther, he limited himself to being involved in one play per year, picking the one with the shortest production time. However, White didn’t always have his eyes set to the stage and music. Through his sophomore year in high school, he liked a different kind of stage — that of the sports arena. He played football and baseball, and was involved in track. However, the bright lights of acting lured him. “Once the theater bug bit me toward the end of sophomore year I was in every show all through high school,” White said. White, who was born in the farming community of Edgewood, Iowa, graduated from high school in Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa. That high school, which was one of three in the city, had 2,000 students. That big school had the quality of smaller schools, and those three schools prized their fine arts as much as the athletics programs, White said. “I didn’t feel less supported when I moved into fine arts,” he said. “I was really fortunate. I think that was really influential to me.” The top choirs had about half of the members of the football team on them. Athletes also were involved in the choir when White had his first teaching job out of college.

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Bethel College President Perry White looks down the staircases in the BC Administration Building, which was built in the late 1800s.

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Above: Perry White has been president of Bethel College in North Newton since 2010. Here, he's in his office in the Bethel College Administration Building. Below: Bethel College President Perry White takes part in the ALS ice water bucket challenge Sept. 2 at Bethel College.

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That choir had 75 singers, including the top five basketball players. In addition, part of the football team was in the marching band. “Some of the (musicians) had football pads (at halftime),” White said. Because White enjoyed music and theater, he had a choice to make in college. He could either major in music and teach or major in theater and act. He chose music and decided to pursue theater on the side. White has performed in professional theater during teaching breaks, which led to opportunities in major motion pictures in the Kansas City area. He appears onscreen in “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” (1990) starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. He also was a stand-in for Kiefer Sutherland in the movie “Article 99,” which also starred Ray Leota, Leah Thompson and Forest Whitaker. In his job as a stand-in, White attended rehearsals and watched Sutherland’s actions, which he’d have to replicate for the technical crew as they set up lighting and the like while Sutherland was in makeup and costuming. This was in 1991. In summer 1993, White did 110 shows of “The Sound of Music” at a dinner theater in Overland Park, but he said he likes teaching better. He taught high school in Iowa and the Kansas City area and at junior colleges in Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas. “I’ve never been bored teaching,” he said. “I was bored doing those things. Students are a bit more entertaining than the grind of acting.” However, it was when he performed in the musical “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in Shawnee Mission that he met his wife, who also was part of the show. They did three shows together, which also included “Big River” and “Guys and Dolls.” Through their 20 years of marriage, they’ve periodically done shows. “It’s something we can do together,” White said. Something else the Whites did together was work at Monmouth College. Dalene was a fundraiser there and shifted to working with the president as a special assistant and board liaison. White said that was a tremendous experience for both of them. “I love the college environment,” White said. White enjoys being a president more than being a vice president, because his vice president experience focused on the external, while as president, his college focus is external and internal, and the best part of his experience is to engage with the students. For instance, White and Dalene have groups of freshmen over for dinner at their home at the beginning of each school year. During a recent dinner, White challenged the students to pick something they’re most afraid of and do it. One of the advantages of Bethel College is students can try new things, White said. “You can do the things you came here to do, and you can also do new things,” White said, adding the college community, in a sense, is a safety net to allow students to experiment and explore new activities. “Our students are involved in a wide variety of experiences (at Bethel College),” White said. The college president enjoys his job and believes in Bethel. That enjoyment can be seen in how he kindly and supportively engages with faculty and staff, and stops to chat with students on the sidewalk. “I still think this is an institution that has a tremendous history,” White said. “A tremendous history of success, a tremendous history of service to higher education, a tremendous history of goals that serve the community and society. I’m very, very proud of this institution, and I’m not satisfied. I think that the potential of this institution is even greater than the history it owns.”

Real purpose and happiness almost always include service to others and service to a cause greater than yourself.

That’s one lesson White learned from one of his mentors, Weston Noble, a former choir director at Luther College. Noble, who spoke at White’s Bethel inauguration, taught White to be proud of his work and to not be satisfied with it either — be proud but push to get better. White, whose father died when he was 7 and was raised by a single mother as an only child, learned more from Noble. “I learned about the desire to build something,” White said. “It wouldn’t have mattered what profession I went into. He inspired me to build something.” At first, White thought Noble inspired him to build a choral program, but then he realized it was to be building or building on something. Another highly influential person in White’s life is his mother, who remarried and resides in Iowa. “I have great respect for my mother,”

White said. “She’s probably one of the most accepting people I’ve known” and noted her great resilience and strength in a quiet way. White’s wife is another important person in his life. He said he’s fortunate to have her as a life partner, and he’s never found marriage with her to be a lot of work. “We complement each other on our life together,” White said. “We have similar interests but different strengths. I think we complement each other in life, and I rely on her strengths when I’m weak.” Both are quite dedicated to Bethel College. White said he believes the college has developed some stability since they’re arrived — some anxiety there has lessened. He added the Bethel community is able to look at the external forces that require change since he’s arrived on campus. In addition, although he doesn’t know if this has anything to do with him, he said the college has been experiencing stability and

awareness they’re in a good position to influence higher education as an institution. “We’re probably in a better position to change and make an even greater impact in this industry that is higher education,” he said. To that end, it seems everyone needs a purpose. “I think the realization I’ve come to — it’s not just a personal and human endeavor,” White said about purpose. “I think it’s an institutional one too.” The individual and institutional purpose can have something in common. “There’s a similar self-actualization that takes place,” White said. As with any institution, Bethel is looking to the future, and that future includes a purpose. What’s next is a clarification of their mission and values that lead them to a “robust, inclusive and potentially transformative strategic plan,” White said.

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Article and photos • Blake Spurney


ranted, Hesston has a strong industrial base that fosters growth and tax revenue, which leads to first-class facilities and strong support in youth sports. The defending champions in Class 3A boys and girls basketball also have coaches whose children are key pieces of the puzzle. For the boys, senior Grant Raleigh has been starting for his father, Greg, since his freshman year. For the girls, senior Caylee Richardson and junior Cami Richardson offer a lethal combination of height and skills for 10th-year coach Matt Richardson. Both certainly are factors that help explain how Hesston became the first school to win dual basketball titles in the same year in 3A since Hillsboro in 1995. But coach Richardson hit on something else that helps explain Hesston's success: The Swathers always have a strong team base rather than a focus on an individual, which is necessary raw material for championship basketball.

Greg Raleigh hit on the first factor when asked to explain the Hesston's culture of winning. “Number one, besides studs, I just think we have good kids, good parents, good community support,” he said. “Active participation, willingness to provide their kids opportunities and support them.” Greg Raleigh said the players benefited from strong support from the town’s recreation program and Mid America Youth Basketball tournaments. He should know, since he founded MAYB more than 20 years ago. A large number of this year’s senior class has played competitive basketball together since the players were third-graders. “They’ve got parents willing to load them in cars and take them wherever the tournaments are and help coach,” he said. Matt Richardson said parents often were coaching at the recreational level, which encouraged their children to stay active. “So the parents really are killing two birds

at one time,” Matt Richardson said. Playing youth sports requires a time commitment, which keeps most children out of trouble, and also helps explain the traits of a team-first environment. What sets Hesston apart from many other communities, he said, is the discipline of its youth. Greg Raleigh said his boys’ team had five seniors who didn’t play a lot in 2013, but those players were great role models. The Swathers finished 20-3 that season and lost in the substate finals to Abilene. Those seniors knew their role on that team and accepted it for the betterment of the team. “It’s pretty rare when you find a 17-year-old willing to play that role and give up time to younger players,” he said. During his 17 years of coaching, which includes a winning state title at Lebo in 1988, he could recall one other player willing to accept such a role. At Hesston, he had several on one team. Matt Richardson pointed to another

.............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Coaches Matt Richardson (left) and Greg Raleigh hold the Class 3A state trophies their teams won in basketball last season. The Hesston Swathers finished a combined 51-1 last season. 18 |

Winter 2014

ingredient that sets Hesston apart from most programs. The level it gets from the townsfolk almost makes it seem like the Swathers rarely play on the road. “Unbelievable. We have a lot of community members who follow (the teams), even to away games,” he said. “It’s nice when you have a larger student section at an away game than the home team does.” Hesston’s winning tradition attracts good coaches who have long tenures. Greg Raleigh credited the three coaches who preceded him over the past 27 years. “They all did a really nice job,” he said about Bruce Krause, Rusty Allen and Ty Rhodes, now the principal at Hesston. “The kids have had good instruction on the high school level for a very, very, very long time." Hesston Athletic Director Clint Stoppel said the answer to Hesston's success was "good kids, good coaches." "It doesn't hurt to have a couple of coaches' kids on the bench because they grow up knowing what to do," Stoppel added. Raleigh and Richardson express circumspection about their

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chances of repeating the dream season that saw their teams go 51-1. The boys team lost Ryan Schadler, the 2014 Barry Sanders High School Male Athlete of the Year, and Wyatt McKinney, a 6foot-6 presence who was as comfortable leading a fast break as he was dominating in the paint. "We won't replace that, but they were just very team-oriented," Raleigh said. "They did everything I needed them to do." Richardson will have to replace four seniors who contributed a lot of experience. But he also returns about 80 percent of the team's scoring, including his daughters and 6-0 senior Kelsey Unruh, who started midway through the 2014 season. "Even those three's roles are going to change," he said. Cami Richardson, who mostly played forward, likely will play the point. Caylee, who played in the paint, may play the 2 or 3 spot, he said. "We throw huge match-up issues, that I don't see many teams wanting to play man defense," he said. With all of the challenges Hesston's teams face, both coaches agree that their charges share one common denominator: the players have been playing together a long time, thanks to youth sports, they have been inculcated into a winning tradition where players know their roles and the community will cheers its lungs out following them.

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Article and photo Wendy Nugent

20 |

Winter 2014


orma Preheim’s hands danced through the air hundreds, maybe thousands of times, in graceful wave-like motions as she directed the Newton Community Children’s Choir, helping keep the youngsters’ melodic voices flowing to the musical beat. Preheim, 82, did that for many years, both with the community choir and classes she taught in the Newton school district, directing and leading students in singing. “Ever since I graduated from Bethel in 1954, one of my greatest joys was working with children’s choirs in church and school,” Norma said during a 2001 Life Enrichment program at the college. “It was an opportune time to be interested in children’s choirs because it was the beginning of a big growth movement in this medium.” Preheim’s influences in this area of music include Ruth Krehbiel Jacobs, who was founder of the Chorister’s Guild and “the leader in developing a high standard of sacred music for children,” as well as Helen Kemp, her successor.

The community choir is marking its 25th anniversary this year, and Norma was the one who formed the group. In light of this, there was an anniversary concert Nov. 30 celebrating the founding of NCCC, although the choir probably was formed before that, growing over time. “It sort of grew out of her teaching,” said her husband, Marles Preheim. “… If ever there was a starting date, I’m not sure.” The choir started with third- and fourthgraders primarily from Sunset and Northridge elementary schools, Marles said, where Norma taught vocal music. She also taught at Cooper. The group grew from about 30-40 children to 70-75 some years with the average around 60. The earliest record of the group performing is Feb. 27, 1988, during the Kansas Music Educators Association InService Workshop. Songs in the program included “Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Prince of Peace,” “An Die Musik” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” However, at this time, the choir was called Newton Childrens Choir.

The group’s first accompanist was Marcene Entz, followed by Melody Bontrager and then Diane Fast. Karen Sims was Norma’s assistant and choreographer throughout this time. In addition to the entire choir, Norma also was honored at the Nov. 30 concert. “They’re simply honoring Norma as founder of the particular organization,” said Marles before the concert. For this concert, former NCCC members were invited to return to sing. Some of the original members could be in their 30s by now. Children is grades four through eight can join the choir by audition. Preheim enjoyed her days as NCCC director. “Well, I have just always loved music, and the kids were just good,” said Norma, smiling. Norma was director for a number of years – from around 1988 through 2001, when she had her last performance. “To be united in a common goal of learning meaningful texts and quality music,

............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Left: Norma Preheim majored in piano and music at Bethel College. Here, she sits at the grand piano in the Administration Building Chapel at Bethel College.

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and working together to bring these elements to life is a noble cause,” Norma said during a 2001 Life Enrichment presentation. “I do feel the choir can forever enrich the lives of these students. Expanding their range of friends, their knowledge of music skills and their willingness to persevere to accomplish worthy goals are all a part of that experience.” However, there is something even more important than that to Norma. “But by far the most important value for the singers is helping them to feel the power of music — that amazing, emotionally charged effect that music has on all of us.” Norma was the group’s volunteer director during the early years, and she brought her music passion to the group. “I didn’t care (about not getting paid) because I liked it,” she said. Norma has had a love for music ever since she was young, singing with her sister, just like her mother did before her. “It’s been a wonderful career for her because she’s always been enamored by early teachers of music,” Marles said. At Bethel College, Norma was a piano and music major, and has always loved children, teaching and school. As a matter of fact, her sister, Florene, started a community choir in Colorado and suggested to Norma she do the same. In addition to having played the piano, Norma performed the clarinet in high school. Although she likes music, Norma is hard pressed to come up with a favorite song. “There’s just so many wonderful ones,” Norma said, adding it’s hard to pick a favorite. With the children’s choir, favorite songs for Norma included sacred, as well as some of the ones performed during that 1988 concert, like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

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Winter 2014

During her years as choir director, the children sang many a tune. “It is important to select music for children that has been wellcrafted by trained composers,” said Marles, a retired Bethel College choir professor. One “nice thing” Marles and Norma could do with their choirs was have them perform together, Marles said. Select choirs of college students and NCCC members performed together. “It was nice we could put some of those together,” Marles said. Another feature of the choir was doing musicals with the children in the spring, such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Charlie Brown” and “The Music Man.” Instrumentalists from the community, such as Keith Woolery, Donna Woolery, John Banman, Don Kehrberg and Vada Snider, helped with the shows. Another feather in Norma’s cap with the choir was bringing home many trophies. “She won virtually every contest that they went to,” Marles said. “… They came back with some very nice honors.” They attended children’s choir festivals in a variety of locales, including Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and Oklahoma City. The festivals were adjudicated by prominent choral people. “Some of the fun times which we experience, we hope also benefitted the Newton community, both locally and statewide these past 11 years by helping promote its special projects and activities,” Norma said in 2001. The fun times also benefitted the children, like former choir member Shawn Stobbe, Newton business owner. “We all developed friendships through the choir,” he said. “It was competitive but not in a ‘have to be the best’ kind of way. Norman had a sense to where she helped us be the best without ever pushing it upon us. The trips we took I will never forget. Imagine being a youngster riding in a big chartered bus to sing in front of a huge

audience. It was thrilling. The one thing I loved the most was on cruise ships, and currently, although he said he’s not as practiced, something I never realized until later in life. I learned so much, not performs at weddings and other events. just about music. Norma would show us how to be good people and Stobbe seems to have a great deal of respect for Preheim. leaders. She shaped many lives.” “Norma is beautiful in so many ways,” he said. “She could turn a Stobbe said the choir influenced him in pursuing music later in single melody into a work of art by simply showing us the way. life. Although I’m sure we both didn’t always see eye to eye (I was “Vocal performance has been the main substance of my life even ornery), she always inspired me, and I’m sure every kid in that choir to this day,” Stobbe said. “Performance was the top priority through to sing out and loud. To this day, I constantly think of her and Karen high school, college and into my professional performing career. I Sims (many others) for teaching me what music was and how to think NCCC was the spark that ignited a lifelong passion of music.” appreciate it.” Throughout college, Stobbe studied opera, music composition, musical theater and vocal performance. After college, he performed ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Norma Preheim directs a rehearsal of the Newton Community Children’s Choir in 1997 at Camp Hawk. Courtesy photo

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Article and photos • Wendy Nugent

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oth of Viktoria Bichet’s parents died and were brought back to life — six months apart. That was in 2013. The year was traumatic for the family, as Viktoria’s mother, Lana Bichet, had six-way bypass surgery after having a heart attack at the family shop in Newton, while her father, Stew Bichet, was in a coma for 10 days as the result of complications from diabetes. Both parents ended up at Wesley Medical Center, and both are alive and kickin’. “Most families are into drama,” Lana joked. “Ours seems to be into trauma.” Those were rough times, Lana said. Viktoria and her boyfriend, Jesse Boucher, both of Hillsboro, are co-managers of ASAP AutoWorks, 500 Washington Road in Newton. Viktoria’s parents, who also reside in Hillsboro, own ASAP AutoWorks, as well as ASAP AutoGlass. “If it hadn’t been for Viktoria and Jesse (in) 2013, our business would have failed,” Lana said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it, and they did it all — even in the face of such adversity.” From the sounds of it, Viktoria learned her work ethic from her parents. There’s a value there that family helps family. After Viktoria was pinned between a customer’s truck she had left running and their work van on May 31, her mother stepped in to fill Viktoria’s shoes while she recuperated. The truck slipped into reserve, pinning Viktoria on the right side, but she was able to get loose. She first called Jesse, and, fortunately, she didn’t have any broken bones. “Just some sprains and cuts,” Viktoria said. Viktoria grew up helping her father with the ASAP AutoGlass business, which started in November 2003 and was based out of her parents’ home. She rode around with her dad and helped install vehicle windshields; Viktoria was certified to do rock chip repair before she was 13. “She was able to do those before she was even able to drive a car,” Lana said. ASAP AutoWorks opened its doors April 19, 2011, and Viktoria and Jesse are considered somewhat owners of AutoWorks, although they’re hopeful to actually make it theirs within the next 10 years. In

March 2011, Stew received a call from Jim Tongish, who had Jim’s Motors at the 500 Washington address, and he wondered whether Stew and Lana wanted to work out of that building, as he was closing that shop. Tongish ended up leaving some equipment there for the family could use, and he still has a dealership on U.S. Highway 50. “It was at the point where we were ready to have a storefront,” Stew said. With the AutoGlass business, Stew drove around repairing and replacing windshields and other vehicle windows, but didn’t have a storefront. Stew knows dealers in the area, and much of his business was around Newton. They even did windshield work for Jim’s

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Viktoria Bichet and Jesse Boucher, both of Hillsboro, run ASAP AutoWorks, 500 Washington Road in Newton. 24 |

Winter 2014


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Motors, a car lot. They leased the building for the glass business more than anything else at the time. But their daughter had a dream. She wanted to have her own business. What influenced her, she said, was being raised in a mostly self-employed household. “I got into it very young, and I always wanted to own my own business,” Viktoria said. “For me, it was a natural thing for me to do, I guess — an opportunity that had to be taken.” When the opportunity came up for ASAP AutoWorks, Lana sent Jesse and Viktoria to a one-week tinting school. They also learned about detailing from car dealers they knew. “I basically pushed them into the fire,” Lana said. “They’ve definitely done a fabulous job. Couldn’t be prouder of both of them.” ASAP AutoWorks does window tinting, detailing, windshield chip repairs, windshield replacement and installing vehicle breathalyzers. The business is a subcontractor for a LifeSafer Ignition Interlock of Kansas in Hutchinson. Those seeking breathalyzers are either court ordered or voluntary, Jesse said. “We haven’t had a voluntary yet,” he said. They call the business AutoWorks so they

can add other services as time goes by, such as remote starts and back-up cameras. “Right now, we’re a little short-handed (to add services),” Viktoria said. But the work they do carries quality. Stew said he’s been hesitant in the past to have his name on other people’s work, but not on Viktoria and Jesse’s. He said he trusts them. “I’m super proud of these two,” Stew said. The two stick behind their work. “We try to make sure no customer leaves dissatisfied because we want you to tell 10 friends what a good job you got,” Viktoria said. Although AutoGlass doesn’t work out of AutoWorks, Jesse and Viktoria give referrals to Stew. “Don’t know what I’d do without them,” he said. He also said the size of their customer base is amazing, and it’s impressive to have two young adults be this successful. The AutoWorks business is seasonal, with spring and summer being the busier times. In September, they had two to three jobs a day, which keeps them pretty busy, and they’re constantly monitoring breathalyzers. When they detail a vehicle, they get every nook and cranny, doing some detailing for used car lots. “Our goal with every detail we do is to get it looking as close to car lot new as we can,” Viktoria said. About half of the customers who have inside detailing want the outside of their vehicles cleaned, such as tires and

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excessive bugs. The two enjoy having a business in Newton. “Love doing business in Newton,” Viktoria said. “It was always one of our bigger towns for the AutoGlass business. Things have been great so far. One of the things that became obvious is we have to give back to the community in order for the community to support you.” That’s where Newton Young Professionals and the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce come into their lives. Both are members of NYP and the Chamber. Viktoria is the events chair with NYP and is on the executive committee on the Chamber Board of Directors. Another feather in Viktoria’s cap was being the Hillsboro Noon Lions Club president at the age of 19. Jesse said he thinks his girlfriend acquired a lot of her leadership skills through that experience. She also served two years as district chair for District S for Lions Clubs International. “We’ve gotten a lot of help with people we’ve gotten to know through the Chamber and just people that we’ve met and being part of the Newton Young Professionals, as well,” Jesse said. Viktoria said her hobbies are the Chamber and NYP, as well as helping out with the Hillsboro Lions Club. Jesse’s hobbies include fishing and shooting targets. In addition, the couple is on a bowling league in Newton, and the business sponsors a team, called, not surprisingly, ASAPAuto. “We’ve met a lot of people doing that,” Viktoria said. “That’s just one of the things people don’t realize is here.” Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call AutoWorks at 316-283-9700.

316.283.8190 • 800.827.8190 • .............................................................................................................................. Viktoria Bichet and Jesse Boucher work on tinting a vehicle window this past fall at ASAP AutoWorks in Newton. Both are members of Newton Young Professionals. 26 |

Winter 2014


t was St. Augustine who said, “The purpose of all wars is peace.” With that prayerful hope, thousands of Harvey County men and women through the decades have answered the call of their country to defend and protect, putting their lives on the line for the sake of peace and freedom. Now, the faces, names and spirit of nearly 900 of these selfless volunteers have been memorialized in a new book worthy of their courage and sacrifice. Titled “Our Nation Called: Harvey County Answered,” the 120page volume also contains nearly 1,000 photos submitted by area veterans, residents and veterans organizations. “There is a temptation in preparing a book such as this one to glorify war and the feats of daring and heroic exploits performed by the men and women who fought them,” said Joel Klaassen, who spearheaded the project as publisher for much of the past year. “That isn’t the goal of this book, however. We are more interested in the lofty ideal of service than the grim reality of war.” Published by Free Press Books and sponsored by project. the Buyer’s “This time Edge of South we held Central scanning Kansas, “Our sessions at area Nation Called” This is one of about 1,000 photos in “Our Nation retirement covers the Called: Harvey County Answered” book published by centers with Civil War era Free Press Books. It was released on Veterans Day. the assumption to the Iraq War Here, Wayne H. Akers is a B-17 top turret gunner in that some of — to the January 1944. the older extent that veterans would information be living there, and it turned out that many was available and submitted. did,” he said. “On the list of retirement “If the editorial content is slightly skewed centers where we set up our scanner were toward the events surrounding World War II, Asbury Park, Presbyterian Manor, Schowalter Korea and Vietnam, it is only because there Villa and Kidron Bethel.” was so much more material from this era The project also received a boost from the submitted to us,” Klaassen said. volunteer involvement of local people who The information-gathering effort lasted a were interested in the project. good four months, he added. With laptop “Several individuals spent a lot of time and scanner in tow, Klaassen traveled to acquiring information about their family numerous locations around the county. members, buddies and relatives which was Veterans organizations were a logical stop. very helpful,” Klaassen said. “We scanned at the Newton VFW and the “They were Richard Janzen, Duane Newton American Legion, and the Halstead ‘Butch’ Mosiman and Mervin Deschner. American Legion,” Klaassen said. “We tried to “Many spouses and sons and daughters contact the Sedgwick American Legion were very helpful in bringing their dads numerous times to tell them what we were information to us as well,” he added. “The doing, but they never got back with us.” memories were sometimes clouded by all of Klaassen, who produced a veterans book the years that had passed since they served in for Marion County in 2012, expanded the the military.” scope of his search for the Harvey County

Article by Don Ratzlaff

Another helpful source of information was the Harvey County Historical Society. “Their archive was very helpful,” Klaassen said. “We became a member because the HCHS is a valuable resource for the area.” Adding to the value of the book are feature articles written by Newton journalist Wendy Nugent chronicling the experiences of seven local veterans:  Bill Bowen, of Newton, recalls his harrowing experience as a Marine severely wounded by the Japanese on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands during World War II.  Loyd Brewer, of Hesston, witnessed the raising of an American flag on top of Mount Suribachi, on Iwo Jima. A photo of that event has become one of the iconic images in U.S. history.  Felipe “Phillip” Cervantes, of Newton, served with the Army in the European theatre during World War II. While participating in an Honor Flight in 2012, Cervantes was asked to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.  Hollis Donker, of Newton, recalls the nurturing connection that developed between a young orphan boy and Donner’s Army unit during the Korean War.  Lee Ray Hiebert, Newton, describes

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Winter 2014

what it was like serving in the Army with Elvis Presley in Frankfort, Germany, during 1959.  Bill Ryan, Newton businessman, reflects on his service with the Air Force in Southeast Asia, including the loss of friends serving as the crew of an F4 fighter that crashed in Vietnam during the early 1970s.  Jaclyn Dickson, Newton, liked working in Vietnam as a civilian so much during the war that she decided to join the Navy when she was through. During her time of service, she even flew a helicopter once in Vietnam.  Jeffery Millspaugh, Halstead, describes an attack on his military base in Iraq as a specialist in the Army National Guard, and how he and members of his squad risked their lives to assist the wounded. “Our Nation Called” officially was released on Veterans Day, with four different events planned for the week. Klaassen said he was pleased with the reception the book received. “Everyone seemed to appreciate the final product,” he said. “We want to thank everyone who submitted or collected photos and information for this significant book. The project could not have happened without their support and involvement.” Copies of the hard-cover book cost $43.20 each, including tax in Newton. The book can be ordered on line at, then clicking on the upper menu bar “Online Store.” The book also is available at the Newton VFW, Newton American Legion, Halstead American Legion, Presbyterian Manor, Harvey County Historical Society and Those Blasted Signs in Newton. The Newton Public Library also has a copy for public perusal.



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Article and photos Kelley DeGraffenreid



Harvey County

fter 16 years as Executive Director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council Mickey Fornaro-Dean has left her mark on Newton and Harvey County. Through the HCEDC, which collaborates with local businesses and municipalities to stimulate growth, she has led a proactive effort to promote grow the local economy. For over a decade Fornaro-Dean has captained the ship and has become one of most highly respected representatives of Harvey County. Born in Durham, North Carolina, the only child of Brenda and Mike Fornaro, she would grow up in Kansas, Ohio and North Carolina. “I kind of grew up everywhere,” says Dean. Her grandparents were a huge part of her upbringing. After her father took a job in Kansas, she would divide her summer break between her fraternal grandparents in Ohio and her maternal grandparents in North Carolina. Fornaro-Dean jokes that, despite her grandmother’s warning, “My mother married a Yankee.” In addition to the time spent with her grandparents, she was her travel agent mother’s “preferred travel partner” and was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to destinations all over the world. After graduating from Ottawa High School, she headed to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. She had done a lot of research while in high school to find a school that would be the right fit and while she loved the small private school, it was located in a dense urban area with a lot of crime. She found the environment “too constrictive” for a girl who grew up in the Kansas countryside, and after one year, transferred to Kansas State University where she earned a BA with a major in public relations and a minor in political science. She had given some thought to the possibility of attending law school but instead took a job at a radio station where she worked in advertising and graphic design. She enjoyed the work but when the radio station closed down she was out of a job. A job in retail followed, thanks to a family connection. She started working at a Maurice’s clothing store in southern Kansas and had been promoted to manager in just 9 short months. She would eventually be promoted to the position of “Training Manager” and had responsibility for managing two stores. She enjoyed the retail business, but after several years, the long hours and travel started to cause burn out. In 1994, she was offered a job that would change her career path permanently. While living in Winfield she had become very involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and the community. That summer the local Chamber Director resigned and a friend who worked for the chamber asked her about applying for the position. She was reluctant. “I had a vacation planned with my mother – it was just bad timing,” says Fornaro-Dean. But the friend was persistent and she ended up applying for the job. Nearly 200 individuals applied for the position but, the Chamber saw something in her and she received a job offer. When Fornaro-Dean took over the chamber, the organization was $42,000 in the red. “I thought - oh heavens what did I get myself into.” By December they had made real progress and the Chamber was $9.93 in the black. To this day Fornaro-Dean says the turnaround they were able to make in those short six months is “one of my

........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Mickey Fornaro-Dean has been executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council for 16 years. 30 |

Winter 2014

proudest accomplishments.” She settled in at the chamber and found that she “loved economic development.” She would spend four years with the Winfield Chamber but was ready for a change and when the job with Harvey County opened up in 1998 she jumped at the opportunity. She would move to Halstead and take the reins at the Harvey County Economic Development Council where she has been there ever since. She married Jere Dean on October 30, 1999. The two had been good friends in Winfield but they had never dated. Not long after she moved to Halstead he “called out of the blue,” to check on her. He asked her if she would like to go to dinner, she said “yes,” and they have been together ever since. Jere Dean serves as a City Council Member in Halstead. The couple lives at the old Warkentine farmstead just north of downtown Halstead. The historic home and barns are a labor of love for the pair. “We call it our hysterical historical money pit,” says Fornaro-Dean. They try to do a major project on either the house or the barn every year. Their next project is the wrap around porch on the house. The Deans have tried to do their part to share the historic property with the community. They love sharing the farm with their animals; Mickey Dean grew up with horses and they continue to be an important part of her life. “The animals are our passion,” she says. They also enjoy entertaining their five grandchildren at the farm. And the Deans have traveled from Austin to Wyoming to compete in chuck-wagon cooking competitions, something they thoroughly enjoy. Mickey Fornaro-Dean attributes much of her success to the strength she inherited from her family. “I was a grandpas girl. Both my grandfathers were very business oriented.” She also gives a lot of credit her mother, Brenda Fornaro who has been an amazing example of strength. Five years ago they lost her father, Mike Fornaro, to an automobile accident. For such a close family this loss was extremely difficult. He died shortly before what

would have been the Fornaro’s 50th wedding anniversary. Watching the way her mother has dealt with the loss and remained a strong independent woman gives Fornaro-Dean inspiration. “A lot of my drive comes from that,” she says. As she enters her 16th year in Harvey County, Fornaro-Dean looks forward to the future. “I’m very proud to work for the Harvey County Economic Development Council for a lot of reasons.” Her work with the county and all seven cities has given her a great deal of professional satisfaction. She likes a quote from Winston Churchill, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.” In Harvey County she sees a good amount of “pro-active economic development,” and she looks forward to great things in the future.

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Harvey County Now  

Winter 2014

Harvey County Now  

Winter 2014